This author is quickly becoming one of my favourites. You may remember Nick Cutter, the reigning creepy gore-Wizard King of CanLit from last year’s revoltingly good biological-nightmare The Troop. Now, his second novel, The Deep (out this month from simo&schu), takes us underwater where an inexplicable plague, the supernatural, and some serious family drama, turns into a gnarly tale that’s custom fit for your next sci-fi binge read.
In a nutshell, Luke is a man who has nothing to lose after his family contracts a brutal new plague called the ‘Gets. He is summoned down to an underwater science base called The Trieste, located at the bottom of Mariana’s trench. A scientific breakthrough, supposedly holding a cure to the ‘Gets, is under way with the discovery of a mysterious new substance called ‘ambrosia”. Luke’s genius-bro Clayton is a lead scientist on the project, but they haven’t had any contact with the team in months. So Luke is sent down (because family) to see what’s going on and comes face-to-face with a whole whack of otherworldly madness.
Like The Troop, Cutter doesn’t really hold back in this one either, especially when it comes to skin-crawling descriptions. But he manages to delve much deeper into the psychology of the mind when it is suddenly faced with inexplicable things. Though scientific discovery, mystery, and extreme isolation play significant roles in the development of the story, it is really each character’s self-inflicted madness that take center stage. No matter how wild things get, Cutter stays true to the notion that we can often turn into our own worst enemy when shit goes down, making things much, much worse.
- The word “ambrosia”.
- Deep water.
- Small spaces.
When I say ruined, I mean it in the best way. Though I think I preferred the simplicity of the remote-island setting in The Troop, The Deep bursts open a whole new world of terror that relies heavily on the tortured psychology of its characters. The jacket calls it The Shining-meets-The Abyss, and they are absolutely correct. Cutter is truly amazing at using the mind as our most disturbed instigator. While the setting is pretty fear-inducing in itself, most of the action takes place in Luke’s mind, with elaborate dream sequences that escalate into full-on waking terrors, spurned by both the hostile environment of the Trieste and Luke’s own inner demons. Add in the threat of above (the ‘Gets) and the mystery below (Ambrosia), you’ve got a lot of pieces to pull together. Some of those pieces don’t get fully explored, which is a shame since every thread is so intriguing. Makes me wonder whether a sequel is in the works that will tackle the ‘Gets situation above the water (a wildly interesting premise that only really appears in the introduction). Either way, you’ve infected me, Cutter (sorry!). I am a lifelong fan.